Nanaimo’s unexpectedly big tech company turns to Dragons’ Den

Morgan Carey | BCBusiness
Morgan Carey will appear on an episode of Dragon’s Den Wednesday evening.

One of Nanaimo’s largest private employers, and B.C.’s fastest growing companies, turns to Dragons’ Den for advice (and a little exposure)

From his heritage-building headquarters in Nanaimo’s sleepy port-side downtown, Morgan Carey runs a rarity not often found in small-town B.C.: a mature, multimillion-dollar marketing and web design company with a growing workforce. And now, he’s taking an equally curious route: asking for $2 million, hat-in-hand, on the set of the CBC show Dragons’ Den.
A former amateur boxer with a full-sleeve tattoo down one arm, Carey is the CEO of Real Estate Webmasters, a web design and marketing firm for retailers that had $10 million in revenue in the last fiscal year. On Wednesday, Carey appears in an episode of Dragons’ Den asking for a $2 million investment in return for 4 per cent equity, which would value the company at $50 million—the largest sum ever netted out on the show.
For a show that banks more on good TV than sensible investments, Carey acknowledges that he is an anomaly: an entrepreneur with a decade-old business with eight-figure revenues. After making this year’s Profit 500 list, former “dragon” Bruce Croxon approached Carey and told him that the show would be “great exposure.”

“I warmed up to the idea,” Carey says. On set, a showrunner said to him, “you clearly don’t need the money, you’re just here to get on TV,” to which he answered, “I need partners and we have aggressive plans. It never hurts when your counsel are influential and have contacts and experience.”
Carey’s reputation as one of Nanaimo’s big private-sector employers with a trademark on the term “SEO Guy” is a long distance from his initial interest in search engine tricks in the late 1990s, as a student with a complicated family life in Nanaimo. A single father with joint custody of his younger brother, Carey was working at a Sears warehouse, exploring early forums and blogs on the nascent topic of SEO, or search engine optimization. By the late 2000s, Carey’s company honed its focus on real estate, which was “a good combination of high price points, in terms of what they sell, and demand everywhere.”
Between 2008 and 2013, the company grew its revenue by 198 per cent, expanding its team of web designers, developers and marketers to its current 130. Growing an export-oriented web design business in a small town on Vancouver Island—75 per cent of its sales are in the U.S.—has made recruitment a challenge, says Carey. But “it’s easy to keep people once they’re here,” he adds.
In order to meet that growth, Real Estate Webmasters recently moved its headquarters into the 15,000-square-foot former office of the Nanaimo Free Press in Nanaimo’s historic downtown core, after a $2 million renovation, for which he received a 10-year heritage tax exemption from the city’s council.
Carey is mum on the results of his TV debut, but he’s quick to tout his hometown: “Nanaimo has become better known as a destination, beyond just mills and fisheries.”